Netflix “Bad Sport” documentary series (featuring SLC Pairs)

allezfred

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This documentary series dropped on Netflix over the weekend and Episode 4 “Gold War” features everyone’s favourites dead horse controversy - the SLC pairs debacle.

Some of quick thoughts:

Naturally it’s pretty biased towards the North American viewpoint. We hear A LOT from Christine Brennan (who says it’s the craziest skating story she has ever covered - (((Tonya/Nancy))) ) and Benoit Lavoie 🇨🇦 who unsurprisingly is certain that Sale/Pelletier should have won.

We do hear a bit from Elena Berezhnaya and Tamara Moskvina, but nothing from anyone else who could make a case for the Russians winning. And whatever anyone says here there is a case to be made.

The absolute worst part of it was Jamie Sale saying words to the effect “I still don’t know to this day if Elena and Anton were involved in the fix.” :blah:
 

tony

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You know, the most telling thing about all of this is Bezic literally exclaiming that B/S program was technically more difficult and ‘that’s why’ the first mark was higher AS THE MARKS came up- rewatch the NBC coverage, you’ll hear it. She also said several times prior to the ordinals actually appearing that B/S had the more complex program, etc.

So what this tells me is she (and all of North American media maybe?) were trying to argue that S/Ps second mark should’ve given them the win - except that’s not what they all focused on in the aftermath. ‘Four mistakes’ she or Scott was claiming, IIRC.
 

Sparks

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Thank you.
This documentary series dropped on Netflix over the weekend and Episode 4 “Gold War” features everyone’s favourites dead horse controversy - the SLC pairs debacle.

Some of quick thoughts:

Naturally it’s pretty biased towards the North American viewpoint. We hear A LOT from Christine Brennan (who says it’s the craziest skating story she has ever covered - (((Tonya/Nancy))) ) and Benoit Lavoie 🇨🇦 who unsurprisingly is certain that Sale/Pelletier should have won.

We do hear a bit from Elena Berezhnaya and Tamara Moskvina, but nothing from anyone else who could make a case for the Russians winning. And whatever anyone says here there is a case to be made.

The absolute worst part of it was Jamie Sale saying words to the effect “I still don’t know to this day if Elena and Anton were involved in the fix.” :blah:
Now I know what I won't watch
 

Karen-W

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Naturally it’s pretty biased towards the North American viewpoint. We hear A LOT from Christine Brennan (who says it’s the craziest skating story she has ever covered - (((Tonya/Nancy))) ) and Benoit Lavoie 🇨🇦 who unsurprisingly is certain that Sale/Pelletier should have won.

We do hear a bit from Elena Berezhnaya and Tamara Moskvina, but nothing from anyone else who could make a case for the Russians winning. And whatever anyone says here there is a case to be made.

The absolute worst part of it was Jamie Sale saying words to the effect “I still don’t know to this day if Elena and Anton were involved in the fix.” :blah:
I don't disagree with you - that was really distasteful and unnecessary. However, I give David a great deal of credit for providing the counterpoint - "Sport is full of corrupt people - and the West is just as guilty as the East. It's a political game."

On the whole, I found it rather unsatisfying. There was too much time spent on Jamie & Elena's childhoods/entries into pairs skating - and not much about David, nor anything about Anton - not even a mention of how he helped get her out of that horrific partnership with Shliakov after the accident - possibly because he, clearly, declined to participate in this documentary. I did find its treatment of Elena to be pretty sympathetic, though, in spite of the lack of participation from Anton. But, really, there was way too much time wasted on Jamie & Elena and not enough time spent on why the judges panel was clearly split (for valid reasons), much less the actual rivalry between the two teams as it developed during the preceding quad. Plus, it didn't really connect the dots in much more than a cursory way as to why a "deal" would have been made until the very end. The FBI investigation and Russian mafia connection was almost an afterthought in this documentary - which maybe is fair since it really was an insane media circus that forced the IOC to force the ISU into the compromise gold medals. I probably would have found it more interesting had it focused on the media circus or on the actual rivalry and how everything did connect across multiple disciplines. There were a lot more layers to the story than this documentary really gave us.

ETA - oh, and yes, I thought the SAME thing as you, @allezfred with regard to Christine Brennan saying it was the craziest skating story she has ever covered, lol. But, perhaps she felt that way because she was getting some of those middle of the night calls with scoops and info in SLC which I don't think was the case in '94.
 

allezfred

Lipinski Stole My Catchphrase
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However, I give David a great deal of credit for providing the counterpoint - "Sport is full of corrupt people - and the West is just as guilty as the East. It's a political game."
Yes, I think David came out of this a lot better than Jamie.

There was huge political pressure pushing Sale/Pelletier as rivals to Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze and Vancouver Worlds pairs event was perhaps the worst judged one I have ever seen. Sale falls out of a triple toe in the short and still gets placed third above reigning World champs Petrova/Tikhonov who were clean and then Sale singles an Axel in the free and beat Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze who were clean in the free.
 

skatfan

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It was about what I expected - felt like it was definitely on Sale and Pelletier’s side. Surprised they didn’t mention the romance that Elena and Anton had had as well.

It cracked me up that they talked about the Love Story program as their chosen vehicle for Salt Lake when it was Plan B after they didn’t have success with their Orchid free.

Brennan was crucial because she had broken the story. I do think it was bigger than Tonya/Nancy because it was about the judging and it changed the judging system.

While initially I thought the Canadians were robbed-now I think it could have gone either way and been fair except for the corruption confession.
 

Panja

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I watched those programmes at the time and I still don't get it. Sure, S/P were clean but they did have the most simple programme (in terms of steps and such). B/Z had a much more complicated programme, with a step out. So indeed S/P were the best of the night with regard to cleanliness. But if they had made the SP the tiebreaker after it was found out that a certain French judge was pressured to vote a certain (and let's not forget there were other judges who preferred the Russians) way at the free skate...

Well, it got us the unprecedend two golds and a new judging system.
 

Coco

Rotating while Russian!
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Yes, I think David came out of this a lot better than Jamie.

There was huge political pressure pushing Sale/Pelletier as rivals to Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze and Vancouver Worlds pairs event was perhaps the worst judged one I have ever seen. Sale falls out of a triple toe in the short and still gets placed third above reigning World champs Petrova/Tikhonov who were clean and then Sale singles an Axel in the free and beat Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze who were clean in the free.


Seriously! And if corruption was the only reason a judge could put B/S first in the FS, how could any judge put S/P first in the SP?
 

wickedwitch

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Seriously! And if corruption was the only reason a judge could put B/S first in the FS, how could any judge put S/P first in the SP?
:slinkaway
Very unpopular opinion alert: I love Jalousie. It's one of my all-time favorite pairs programs, albeit behind Lady Caliph, but close enough that I would consider giving it to them. It's so original. It's so hard to pull off humor on ice in a competitive program, and I wouldn't blame a judge giving it to them just for that.

Love Story, OTOH, is my least favorite of S/P's competitive programs. And while I've warmed up to it in recent years (I used to hate it), the differences in those programs, when presentation was the tie breaker, gives B/S such a clear edge in my mind.
 

tony

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:slinkaway
Very unpopular opinion alert: I love Jalousie. It's one of my all-time favorite pairs programs, albeit behind Lady Caliph, but close enough that I would consider giving it to them. It's so original. It's so hard to pull off humor on ice in a competitive program, and I wouldn't blame a judge giving it to them just for that.
But even with the fall at the end? I remember the debates of whether it finished after the music and all of that, but B/S were clear winners of the SP for me either way, and Jalousie wasn't bad. Just Lady Caliph was perfection.
 

Karen-W

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:slinkaway
Very unpopular opinion alert: I love Jalousie. It's one of my all-time favorite pairs programs, albeit behind Lady Caliph, but close enough that I would consider giving it to them. It's so original. It's so hard to pull off humor on ice in a competitive program, and I wouldn't blame a judge giving it to them just for that.

Love Story, OTOH, is my least favorite of S/P's competitive programs. And while I've warmed up to it in recent years (I used to hate it), the differences in those programs, when presentation was the tie breaker, gives B/S such a clear edge in my mind.
I love Jalousie too. It was a great program.

I hated Love Story, especially the retread 2002 version. I wanted S/P to win, very much, in SLC, but their Orchid program was a far superior vehicle and going back to Love Story was a mistake.
 

Coco

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@wickedwitch I knew when I made my post that someone would say, oh it was so good it deserved to win anyway. :)

But honestly, that's a variation of argument that B/S should win the FS despite there even smaller error.
 

wickedwitch

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@wickedwitch I knew when I made my post that someone would say, oh it was so good it deserved to win anyway. :)

But honestly, that's a variation of argument that B/S should win the FS despite there even smaller error.
Well, at least I'm consistent, because, as I wrote, I definitely think B/S deserved to win the LP.

ETA: since I'm listing all my terrible opinions about controversial Oly pairs competitions, I'll add another one: M/D deserved to win in 1994 on both TE and artistry/presentation.
 

Jay42

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I was 14 during SLC and a huge Salé & Pelletier fan because I'm Canadian and outside of message boards which I was just getting into at the time everyone I knew who watched skating was cheering for Salé & Pelletier and my mom, the one who got me into figure skating, was always very big on cheering for the home country skaters.

The following spring I had to do a compare and contrast essay for English and I decided to do it on Salé & Pelletier and Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze because SLC had gotten me fully hooked and I was spending most of my time on figure skating message boards anyway so my mom figured I should channel the obsession into something useful. While I don't remember the details and I don't know if I still have the essay, although there's a chance I do because I was homeschooled so my mom may have stashed it, the thing I remember most about doing that essay is it took me from being kind of apathetic on B&S to a full fledged fan. I still kind of wish I had been motivated to do something like that sooner because it made me sad I had missed out on cheering for them.

I don't know who I think actually should have won, I haven't watched SLC pairs probably since it happened. One of these days I probably will, it's on YouTube.
 

mtnskater

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All I can say was I was live in the arena in SLC for the pairs free skate and as soon as the scores came up my friend and I (very long time skating fans then and now) said to each other “THAT was a judging fix”. And I am not Canadian…and neither is my friend. The audience of over 20,000 people booed so loud I thought my ears would split. Never heard such loud booing at any skating event ever! Sale & Pelletier created a moment that night. Huge standing O. B&S did not create a moment and touch the audience. Their skating was beautiful, but not the emotional impact as S&P and they skated a bit tight. No standing O. To me live in the arena S&P were clearly the winners And B&S second. And for S&P to be second was not proper judging of the moment. But skate fans are always saying that it was Scott who caused all of the blowback with his TV commentary. But the 20,000 people in the arena booing like crazy didn’t hear Scott’s input. Guess what? It DID turn out to be a judging fix.
 

VGThuy

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All I can say was I was live in the arena in SLC for the pairs free skate and as soon as the scores came up my friend and I (very long time skating fans then and now) said to each other “THAT was a judging fix”. And I am not Canadian…and neither is my friend. The audience of over 20,000 people booed so loud I thought my ears would split. Never heard such loud booing at any skating event ever! Sale & Pelletier created a moment that night. Huge standing O. B&S did not create a moment and touch the audience. Their skating was beautiful, but not the emotional impact as S&P and they skated a bit tight. No standing O. To me live in the arena S&P were clearly the winners And B&S second. And for S&P to be second was not proper judging of the moment. But skate fans are always saying that it was Scott who caused all of the blowback with his TV commentary. But the 20,000 people in the arena booing like crazy didn’t hear Scott’s input. Guess what? It DID turn out to be a judging fix.
As someone who thinks B/S deserved to win, too many people ignore this and undervalue what S/P created that night. For better or worse, many audience members did not need Scott Hamilton to tell them that S/P should have won. It was an overwhelming feeling on American television. And yes, old West/East tensions and politics and visuals did play into it, but I’m just going to say it: "Lady Caliph" was pure B/S at their best and undeniable; their "Meditation" was not despite it being a superior program to "Love Story" in terms of “TES” and B/S being superior skaters with better pair skills (except the lifts). Even in their interviews, Elena and Anton were not that into Meditation and it showed. Love Story may have been middle brow and far from high art, but Moskvina’s vision for Meditation was contrived, cliché, and I don’t think the choreography made much sense. It was good as a technical showcase though.

It was like the Yuna Kim of pairs programs except I think Wilson’s works for Kim had more thematic sense. Maybe my post belongs in the “Unpopular Opinions” thread. I think some fans have led a twenty year campaign to totally delegitimize any arguments in favor of S/P that it has gone way too far to the point where they don’t even admit there was real corruption behind the scenes, and it’s been kind of easy to go with it because Jamie Sale is super annoying, provincial, and gets worse with age and every time she opens her mouth, it makes you wish she didn't receive a gold medal.
 
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Karen-W

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You know, I almost said this in my original post, but the one thing that I think the documentary did capture, very well, was the reaction within the arena, to the performances. We didn't need Scott Hamilton screaming at us over the airwaves to know what the audience reaction inside the building was.

As much as I did, at the time, detest Love Story, for all the reasons @VGThuy listed above there was something magical in their performance that night. Sure, it is middle brow and wasn't meant to be any more high art than Fear/Gibson's free dances or Liza Tuktamysheva's programs (both SP and FS) are today, but there is a definite appeal and entertainment factor that should not be overlooked or dismissed.
 

michalle

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But receptivity of the audience makes a difference too. I was at Minneapolis Worlds and the hostility of the audience to K/O was tangible. The audience in SLC Worlds had been fed literally years of propaganda about the Evil Russians and wronged Americans and Canadians at that point (this is not, by the way, to say there weren't necessarily problems with the judging system - just to say that the level of bias in the coverage and the way it implied that some judges were EVIL and others were SAINTLY seemed a little over the top). So of course they were going to receive S/P differently than B/S. This is part of why I felt the North American commentary of that era was so problematic, because it felt like it was designed to accomplish exactly what happened in SLC.
 

Karen-W

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But receptivity of the audience makes a difference too. I was at Minneapolis Worlds and the hostility of the audience to K/O was tangible. The audience in SLC Worlds had been fed literally years of propaganda about the Evil Russians and wronged Americans and Canadians at that point. So of course they were going to receive S/P differently than B/S. This is part of why I felt the North American commentary of that era was so problematic, because it felt like it was designed to accomplish exactly what happened in SLC.
I can't say that I agree with you on this point. There was a huge difference between pairs and ice dance commentary. Not only that, there weren't any Americans in that SLC pairs race. Maybe an outside shot for Ina/Zimmerman at the bronze but no one, even the average fan on the street, was kidding themselves, into thinking that the US was somehow being wronged by the Russians. Beyond that, there was, IMO, a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for Moskvina in the late '90s and early '00s from the US skating establishment that came through on the broadcasts. She was, after all, I/Z's coach and her Russian teams were training in New Jersey at the time.

Maybe the Canadian broadcasts were different but lumping them in with US commentary doesn't really reflect what was being said over the air in the US, at least not with regard to pairs during the 90s and early 00s, if your argument is that the majority of the arena audience was somehow conditioned into believing the "Evil Russians/wronged North Americans" narrative from exposure to previous TV commentary. Now, I will give you ice dance as, 100% "Evil Russians" and wronged Canadians/Americans in one broad, all-encompassing category of misleading commentary. But, no way was pairs being characterized as "Evil Russians" and wronged North Americans - in part, I'd say, because, similar to singles skating, landing the jumps, throws and other elements is pretty clear to see for most viewers - it's hard to argue with the winners when they go out and complete their elements perfectly. What the SLC pairs event was was the perfect storm of "how does the less than perfect to the naked eye beat the perfect to the naked eye?" Just be happy it didn't happen in the ladies event.
 

Sparks

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But, it does matter. I have a lot of things to say, but I'll go to bed instead.
 

Vash01

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I have no desire to watch this. I watched the pairs competition live in SLC and I believe that the superior pair won that night, though it was an extremely close competition. Beyond that I have nothing to say. This has been regurgitated a million times. Nearly 20 years have passed. It is time to move on.
 

MacMadame

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All I can say was I was live in the arena in SLC for the pairs free skate and as soon as the scores came up my friend and I (very long time skating fans then and now) said to each other “THAT was a judging fix”. And I am not Canadian…and neither is my friend.
I was live in the arena too and I didn't boo and neither did anyone in our box. In fact, some people in our box thought B/S deserved the win.

It was an extremely close competition and it really could have gone either way.
 

VGThuy

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The Olympic audiences aren’t made up of hardcore skating audiences. They go beyond to the general public and wouldn’t have that history of watching biased skating commentary. Now, they may have had an idea that Russians dominated but we’ve seen Russians celebrated before. At the Olympics, it’s more about who captures the audience at the performance and they’re much more casual fans than hardcore skating fans are. There’s a reason why Anissina/Peizerat got a huge ovation after their OD (and not so much with their FD) and why Yagudin was so celebrated. In Nagano, there’s a reason why Tara and Lu Chen got the loudest ovations. In Pyeongchang, everything got inverted in ice dance - coming into the event it was P/C who captured audiences with their Moonlight Sonata at Euros and the Shibs were having issues with a rising H/D and people critiquing the Shibs for doing Coldplay again….but at the Olympics, the much wider Olympic audiences never saw the Shibs’ “Fix You” FD and in the end the crowd didn’t have the same skating fan hang up about it, and V/M captured the crowd with their electric performances in the Team Event which led to excitement for the individual that they were able to match expectations for while P/C’s Moonlight Sonata didn’t capture the audiences the same way V/M did. It’s a different arena and a different audience.

And of course not everyone booed the 2002 Pairs results. In fact Rodnina was there, doing commentary, and cheered when the result happened (talk about biased commentary), but you have to be willfully blind and deaf not to hear the overwhelming negative response from the arena. It was palatable. They could all be wrong and, like I said before, I thought B/S’s win was deserved, but let’s not ignore the obvious. And in the end, there was cheating and corruption going on thanks to things beyond pairs. I say this while also thinking 2001 Worlds was a crock of a competition too in both pairs and ice dance.
 
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mikey

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I watched this last night and thought it was boring. People outside the sport might find it interesting but I though the production was a mess. And it definitely reminded me why I pretty much can't stand Sale, Pelletier, OR Christine Brennan!
 

allezfred

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90% of the audience at the Olympics are non- skating fans and they are extremely ignorant about the sport. But hey let’s do away with the judging panel and install a clapometer instead! :p

I loathed the awarding of the second gold medal at the time, but in hindsight it was probably the best solution just to make the whole thing go away. However what really irked me at the time and still does today is that if Benoit Lavoie is right and it was clear Sale/Pelletier won on the night then surely isn’t he saying that not only the French judge was corrupt, but also the judges from the other four countries who put Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze first?
 

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